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A Culinary, Linguistic Romp in Defence of British Food

to eat your words (idiom)
definition: to retract what you have said, especially in a humiliated or apologetic way.

Kayte – I’m a linguist and I spend my working days with people who are not British. Which is great, and I love it. I adore working between languages and looking how cultures affect what we say and how our language itself can affect how we think.  BUT.  What I don’t love is the fact that at least twenty times a year one of these people-who-are-not-British tells me that British food is “rubbish”. At least twenty times a year. And that’s if they are being polite; sometimes they say much worse. And I take a deep breath, and put on a patient expression and ask hopeful things like “But what about crumpets? Crumpets are lovely”.

And you know what they say? They say…”What’s a crumpet?”

FFS. This is where I start to get cheesed off. HOW, I ask, can you criticise something if you’ve never really tried it? Hey? HEY? And then they complain that it’s difficult to “try British food” because the streets are full of Chinese, Indian, Italian, French restaurants, and you never hear anyone say “Oooh, I’m off for an English”.  And…ok, that at least is true. British food is very much cooked at home, and if you want it fully prepared for you on a plate, the easiest way might be to get yourself an invitation to Sunday lunch. But please, I beg them,  don’t go and eat fish and chips on a Tuesday in a tourist pub miles from the sea, off a plate with a picture of the Queen on it, and then tell me all our food is *&%^. Please don’t do that. And sometimes people listen.  Sometimes.

Anyway, and so this. Since so much of the English language is filled with food-related expression and idiom, it seemed the perfect thing: a collection of properly British food, with some jolly useful language thrown in. It also means Nicer Kate and I have an official reason to sit about once a week talking about food and language, which to be honest, is something we do anyway, most of the time…

– Kayte, the Brilliant English Company

Nicer Kate – we Brits have one of the richest food cultures in the world, full of inspirations from other nations- from the Romans, via the Vikings and especially thanks to our long standing (and not always amicable) relationship with France.

We are amongst the most invaded nations in the world, and have picked up traditions and foods from these visitors (it’s amazing how many recipes we get from the Romans), but as everyone knows the British have done a bit of invading themselves … and brought things home too.

We have delicious wintery stews, slow cooked roasts, light summer dishes, tarts, cakes, bakes, kedgerees, chutneys, more cheeses than the French, wines and ales, creamy fruit puddings, and lots and lots of dishes with very odd names.

What do today’s vistors take away from Great Britain, though?
The greasy fish and chips and beige fried rubbish they found in a bloody pub in Leicester Square. And what do they say about British cooking? They say we boil and deep-fry everything. And what do they say about the taste? They say everything is bland and without flavour.

When I hear people say ‘bland’ (bland!!!), it makes me want to take a jar of Hot English Mustard and flick it at them.

It’s all too depressing for words.

And SO, for all those who have told us that British food is ‘rubbish’, this little blog will, we hope, make you Eat Your Words.
– Nicer Kate, brewer, baker and cake-maker, Bake

(and she’s only called Nicer Kate because she swears EVER so slightly less than I do. Really. K) (And, because I am a ‘walking cliche’, apparently – NK)

One last note:

We would like to dedicate this blog to two people:

Our very dear, very handsome (and oooh, so he is)  Italian friend, who we shall call Mr Wickham for now… because without his regular scathing criticism of British food, his exaggerated expressions of revulsion at British recipes and his constant hysterical laughter at the British ability to cook, we would not have thought of our title. We love you for it,  Mr W, so thank you, and up yours.

And to Auntie Yumi, stupidly far away in Tokyo. Our very own Bakey-Cakey Lady, and godmother to one of our daughters, who in her years living alongside us embraced every aspect of our food and our drink (especially our drink, hey, Spewmi-chan?) and with whom we had many a happy cheese-fuelled road trip. Food parcels do wing their way from your table to ours but we still miss you. You should never have left us. Bad girl.

© 2016 Kayte & Nicer Kate – authors assert moral rights


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1 Comment

  • Reply
    lee hamilton
    November 18, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    What a great idea, love it!

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